Around the World with Harken’s Tech Team – Episode 1: Cape Town

Cape Town Stopover: Behind the Scenes

Ever wonder what happens behind the scenes during the stopovers of the most exciting races in the world? The Harken Tech Team is there and working hard to keep it happening. Come along for the ride!

Follow as we track Harken’s team of technical specialists to event stopovers and see what goes on behind the scenes. Gain access to exclusive videos, write-ups, and photos from the team as they work to keep top athletes and their yachts performing on the water.

Cape Town: November 2014

HARKEN TECH TEAM: Mark Gardner (UK), custom projects & service manager; specialists  Craig Blazer (USA); Max Ronchetti and Pietro Schiaffonati (Italy)

MISSION: Service seven Volvo Ocean Racing Yachts at the Cape Town, South Africa stopover.


Each Volvo stopover is divided into service levels depending on how many miles the yachts have covered and the difficulty of the previous leg.

Service is split into three categories:

  • Minor: Full dismantle and inspection of winches; wincheslubricated and reassembled.
  • Partial: Full dismantle and inspection of winches; pawl springs replaced; winches lubricated and reassembled. Visual inspection of pedestal and drive system.
  • Full: Full dismantle and inspection of winch and pedestal/drive system; pawls, springs, seals, and bushings replaced; system lubricated and reassembled.

The number of Harken technicians varies depending on how much work is required for the specific stop. A full-service tune-up takes six days for one technician to service one VO65. Harken has seven boats and most the time only six or seven days to do the work.


Because of the lack of wind, the fleet was late coming into Cape Town, instead of the predicted seven, we had only five days to complete the service work required. As a result, we increased our number of technicians from the original three, to four.

The first boat over the line was Abu Dhabi on Tuesday afternoon, and the yacht was quickly lifted out of the water and onto its cradle. We immediately spoke to the sailing and shore crew to make sure any problems they had with Harken equipment during the leg were recorded for investigation.

  1. Harken technicians removed all eight winches from the boat and took them to our workshop within the Volvo boatyard where they were cleaned and inspected.
  2. Cape Town was a partial service level so all pawl springs were replaced.
  3. The winches were then reassembled and lubricated onboard the boat.
  4. The drive system, including three MX pedestals, four 606 gear boxes, and one X- Box were visually inspected and any work required carried out.

This process was repeated on all seven boats in preparation for the start of leg 2. There were no major problems during this stopover and the boats were in very good condition!

The high temperature made servicing the boats more difficult as it was impossible to work on deck in the middle of the day (you literally couldn’t pick your tools up as they were too hot to handle). Because of this, we started early, working from 7 am to 7 pm, with an hour off during the horrendously hot mid-day.

The forecast was for the wind to increase, so Volvo took their change to get all the boats back in the water before it was too windy to do so. After a day of sail trials, the winch systems on the boats needed a bit of fine-tuning, but all-in-all a good job done!

Next stop Abu Dhabi, December 13 – 24.

Stay tuned for our next update!

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